Weigand spells victory again

Bejeezus! He won again!

In a game of Scrabble, it's not always the high-brow words that spell victory. That principle helped David Weigand, 36, of Portland, on Sunday to win the West Coast World Championship Word List Challenge in Ashland for the third consecutive year.

Weigand netted 142 points alone from the word, "bejeezus," which he formed from a lonely "e" on the board.

"There was an 'e' on the board, and it's an eight letter word," said tournament director Rich Baker of Eureka, Calif. "He had seven of those letters on his rack, and he came up with 'bejeezus.' That's a huge score."

About 18 people participated in the third-annual international tournament based in Ashland and this year, held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Players came from as far away as Toronto, Ontario in Canada and Florida and ranged in age from 28 to 80.

Weigand, a mortgage underwriter, placed first with 17 wins and three losses and won the grand prize of $1,000.

"It's pretty cool," Weigand said. "It's a tough crowd so winning once is a pretty good achievement. These are some of the top players in the world."

Nathan Benedict of Tucson, Ariz., a professional online poker player, won $300 in second place with 14 wins and six losses. In third place, John Chew of Toronto, of the North American Scrabble Players Association, won $200.

Weigand has been playing competitive Scrabble for 20 years.

"I play Scrabble as often as I can," he said. "I would rather do that all the time, but I can't make a living at that."

He's headed to the World Scrabble Championship in October in Warsaw, Poland.

The Ashland tournament's appearance three years ago on the Scrabble scene marked a migration in North American Scrabble tournaments toward the use of Collins Scrabble Words. The Collins word list is used to adjudicate Scrabble matches in most of the world outside North American and is the standard for international tournaments.

Collins contains about 50,000 more words than the Official Tournament and Club Word List used in North American and includes both American and British words, said Ashland resident Travis Chaney, tournament organizer and player.

"It requires more word knowledge and tends to be higher scoring," Chaney said.

The increase in Scrabble tournaments has recently fueled increased interest in the game, but some players such as retired teacher Stu Goldman, 80, of San Francisco, have been competing since the 1950s.

Goldman said he used to play 20 tournaments a year but as he grew older, pared that down to about six.

"This is what I love to do," he said. "I love words. I love the strategy and the competition."

Goldman said he usually is the oldest person at tournaments with the passing of one of his rivals, a 99-year-old woman who competed until she died.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or email pachen@mailtribune.com.

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